In another life I was a piano teacher.

I had quit the piano at age ten, like most kids, in a fit of impatience with my elderly teacher and a disinterest in practicing. I didn’t want to play the songs from my grandparent’s childhood found in John Thompson’s Modern Course for the Piano (circa 1936), I wanted to play the second movement of Beethoven’s Pathetique.

I wanted to play beautiful music.

After a few years of piano-free existence, at thirteen, using the knowledge I’d accumulated from all those years of lessons, I taught myself FΓΌr Elise. It took about a year of unsteady practice, and after mastering that I moved on to the Moonlight Sonata. From classical I moved to the show tunes we sung and danced to in theatre and choir.

These weren’t played for anyone but myself, and I realized that was what had been missing in all my years of playing; passion, which enabled me to rise to a challenge.

I didn’t understand it as a child, but art is difficult – that’s what makes it beautiful. Once I began playing out of love for a song, I discovered a fortitude previously unbeknownst to me.

Each of the songs I list below have come to me at different times in my life, and each have remained sacredly beautiful for various reasons. Mostly, they make me think bigger, dream bigger, and love bigger than I thought myself capable of – just like the hard work I wasn’t capable of until I discovered my passion.

Carpet Crawlers – Genesis

I first heard this when I was very, very young. It brings up memories of sitting around the campfire with my parents and sister – the youngest hadn’t even been born yet. My father, also a music lover, would play tape cassettes he and my mother recorded off the record player. He told us he was educating us in Neil Young and The Rolling Stones, and though we balked at his music (none of it Top 40! Where’s the Ace of Base?), we got more of an education than we’d expected.


This is the music that brings me back into my childhood most easily, as if I’m merely slipping on my old Converse instead of traveling back in time.

In this particular song, it’s the harp that gets me, and the eternal refrain:

“We’ve got to get in to get out.”

Rhinoceros – Smashing Pumpkins

This was the first song I discovered all on my own that I knew I had to have. Back in the days before the Internet and downloads and easy access to information, finding a song took supreme effort, especially if it was early 90’s rock, where the title of the song barely made any reference to the indistinguishable lyrics.

When I finally, finally found this song, I purchased the tape cassette with my own money – and $13.00 for an album was a high price to pay, indeed, for a thirteen year old in 1995. Needless to say, I rewound and replayed this song so many times it became a visceral part of me.

The strength of the melody and the building of tension to a breathtaking crescendo has always held me in an emotional grip, a sort of musical lock-down I can’t break out of until the song ends. Even then, I remain introspective afterward.

Silver Springs – Fleetwood Mac

As I rediscovered the music of my childhood, Fleetwood Mac became a key part of my fifteen year old identity. I actually had never heard this song until I saw them perform it live for their reunion tour on TV. I bought the CD, and have played this song every time I found myself in unreciprocated love, or just yearning for feeling that intensely.

The chimes, the incorporation of the piano, and the pleading beauty of the lyrics have always spoken to me.

“Time cast it’s spell on you, but you won’t forget me.
I know I could have loved you, but you would not let me.
I’ll follow you down till the sound of my voice will haunt you,
You’ll never get away from the sound of the woman that loved you.”

That’s all I ever wanted – magic love, even if it was broken.

Permanent – The Milk Carton Kids

By the time I hit my indie music phase, I was finishing up college and so tired of the bullshit music that seemed corporately engineered on the radio. Mike and I were listening to a lot of NPR during this time, and Morning Becomes Eclectic opened up a whole new world of artistry.

When Mike first played this song for me, I sat on the sofa immobilized for at least ten minutes. Where was my life going? What was I living for? Did I have a love worth dying for?

“Even if I lay ten million bricks
And they break through the summer haze
Someone will come around and bulldoze them down someday.”

Not long after hearing this song for the first time, I started writing again. Beauty inspires me that way.

Oh, and eventually I did learn Pathetique, about four years before I started trying to teach others that beauty takes hard work.


– – –


Remember When – Alan Jackson

This song reduces me to tears, every time. Do you know why?

It’s the song Mike and I danced to at our wedding. It’s been our song ever since we first heard it as two young kids in love. We decided we would always “Remember When” together.

Happy Second Anniversary, Mike.

First Dance

– – –

Image Source 1, Image Source 2

Jen Kehl


Beautiful Music — 22 Comments

  1. Happy Anniversary! OK I would listen to your whole list, but I can’t because I can’t stop Pathetique. Actually its OK because I know most of these songs, but they are eclipsed by the beauty and grace right now especially of the way that Yundi Plays.
    BTW that whole Genesis album is the perfect example of why I started Raised on the Radio, each song on that album is tied to another. If you don’t listen to that whole album you aren’t doing it justice, you know?
    And thank you for the Milk Carton Kids, never heard them! Now I am listening to that… another I will listen to all the way through. Great list!!!
    JenKehl recently posted…The Market TangoMy Profile

  2. Happy Anniversary πŸ™‚ What a gorgeous song you have πŸ™‚

    And WOW! Yundi makes it seem so easy! Glad you learned it in the end. Roll on the day when Jen decides to make us upload our own videos of us somehow performing a song – you’ll be well in the lead for mastery πŸ™‚
    Considerer recently posted…Behind the scenesMy Profile

  3. I so wish I could play piano decently and I’m really impressed that you taught yourself to play those pieces. I know exactly what you mean about learning with stuff that doesn’t inspire you. I had to do that with voice lessons, guitar, flute and I was like “can I PLEASE do something I like??” If I hear “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” one. more. time. I swear I might get violent. I love your picks and – sigh – Silver Springs!! Right on!

    Happy Anniversary to you and Mike! What a sweet picture.
    Linda Roy recently posted…The Time David Lee Roth Showed Me His Head At the Grocery StoreMy Profile

  4. I like how you always take these blog post prompts and manipulate them to what you really wanted to write about.

    Great selection of obscure songs by well-known bands (at least Smashing Pumpkins, Fleetwood, and Genesis). I’ve always hated how we only get to hear the top 3 songs by each band on the radio. As if people can’t memorize over 150 songs in their lifetime? My iTunes is full of the entire collections of the bands I like. So if I want to hear Bohemian Rhapsody, I have to listen to the rest of A Night at the Opera, album.

    Your collection is just as eclectic as mine, and your making me want to do something similar someday. Maybe I’ll just plagiarize your words and insert my music…
    Chris Plumb recently posted…Cosplay, Larping, and Furries: Oh MyMy Profile

    • Muahaha. I’m tricky like that.
      Some of a well-known band’s best songs are the b-sides, I’ve found. You and I would get along great in real life, if only because you agree that one must listen to an entire album (ESPECIALLY if that album is A Night at the Opera). So many kids these days don’t have the attention span to appreciate the artistry that goes into creating an album.

  5. This is a lovely list. I’m in awe of Stevie Nicks. Have been for many years. I absolutely love that Allan Jackson song. Perfect wedding song about growing older together and all the wonderful memories. Happy Anniversary to you and your husband!! Extra cool that Wild Horses was your mom and dad’s wedding song!!

  6. I love all the music you incorporated into this post! I don’t think I could have survived high school without The Smashing Pumpkins, and you had me chuckling with the memory of how we had to hunt down our music, or be so lucky as to catch it on the radio to record….DJ’s talking over it and all.

    Happy Anniversary!!
    Ericamos recently posted…Why I Should Work With ChildrenMy Profile

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